Written By Hank O’Hop
Published Sep. 27, 2021

You will make mistakes when turning wrenches like tightening hardware until it suddenly loosens up. Congrats, you’ve just stripped the bolt, nut, or other fasteners while letting a few too many demons out as you work. So, what do you do? Is all hope lost? Nope, enter tap and die sets to get you out of those sticky situations. It’s no exaggeration to say that it can literally save you thousands of dollars in replacement parts over its lifespan, and you absolutely want to add one to your collection. Which one? That’s what we’re here to help you with as we’re going to show off some of our favorites and set you up with a quick buying guide to help you track down the best tap and die set for your collection.

Best Tap and Die Set Reviews & Recommendations

The balance of price and quality is above average, and this kit covers the basics for beginners to get started. If you know Tekton, you know that it’s no surprise to see it here as no matter the tool, you can rest assured that Tekton’s signature quality is present. This particular set is for beginners that don’t want, or need, to invest in a master kit, covering a total of 20 fine and coarse thread metric sizes with an SAE variant available. It comes with the typical T-handle wrenches for taps, which will do fine in most cases, and the die stock adapter is better than most competitors because it uses three set screws as opposed to one.

Is this set perfect? No, there are a couple issues. The T-handle for taps is rather flimsy and is easy to break under moderate load (a common issue of all T-handles). Also, the set screws in the die aren’t hardened, which poses issues of its own.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Tekton
  • Part Number 7561
  • Thread Type Metric
PROS

Competitive pricing

Quality surpasses expectations

Thoughtful design on die stock adapter

Covers a wide range of metric sizes

CONS

T-handle wrenches break easily

Die stock set screws aren’t hardened

Poor quality storage case

This kit covers a wide range of metric and SAE sizes but is aptly priced for a tight budget. We know what it’s like to have plenty of work to do on a tight budget and that’s why we feel safe in saying that this selection from Orion Motor Tech is something you can count on to get the job done without going broke. Despite the low price, this is a master kit that covers a total of 34 different fine and coarse thread sizes in both SAE and metric, each getting its own storage case. That might eat up some room on the shelf, but it does help you to stay organized and keep track of your tools. And on top of that, either set comes with its own T-handle tap and die wrenches, which can act as spares.

We say that’s a good thing because you’ll likely need to do that if you’re not careful. It’s important to remember that this is a budget-minded set, and it’s not going to hold up quite as well as a pro-level tool and the T-handle wrenches are the major weak point.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Orion Motor Tech
  • Part Number TAD-0040_MAIN
  • Thread Type SAE and metric
PROS

Affordable price point

Covers a wide range of metric and SAE sizes

Comes with two storage cases

CONS

Material quality could be bettered

Taps and dies can be relatively short-lived

The ratcheting tools and means to use existing ratcheting wrenches make life easy when space is limited. Whenever you’re looking for innovative tools that will make life easier, you know Gearwrench is a brand you can look to. In this case, this tap and die set comes with ratcheting tap and die, and there’s even an included adapter that will work with your socket wrench. That’s right — you can use your socket wrench with taps without having to sacrifice any old sockets. To top it off, this set covers a wide range of coarse and fine metric and SAE threads.

While this kit is definitely of far better quality than most cheap sets, it’s still shy of what pro-level tools bring to the table. Despite what the price indicates, the quality is about the same as most DIY-friendly sets.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Gearwrench
  • Part Number 82812
  • Thread Type Metric and SAE
PROS

Ratcheting mechanism makes creating threads easy

Taps can be fitted to socket wrench with adapter

Covers a wide range of metric and SAE sizes

Good quality for DIY applications

CONS

Premium price point

Taps and dies material quality could be better

This affordable set covers a wide range of sizes and quality surpasses most expectations. Here we have ABN’s contender for the title of best value. In fact, the only reason it’s not our overall choice is that it covers slightly fewer sizes. Even so, it offers a respectable range of threads in both SAE and metric configurations and the quality greatly surpasses what the pricing might lead you to believe. And the die adapter features a sliding design with thumbscrews that makes setting up effortless while also coming with a surprisingly nice storage case for the money.

As an affordable set, you can expect the quality to be less than what the pros would depend on. We’ll also point out that everything is crammed into one case without markings, making it a chore to find the sizes you need.

Specs
  • Manufacturer ABN
  • Part Number 8766
  • Thread Type SAE and Metric
PROS

Affordable price point

Covers a wide range of metric and SAE sizes

Quality is better than what price indicates

CONS

Taps and dies can break

Case is unmarked

The quality of this set surpasses many on our list and the included contents help to create a well-rounded set that’s easier to use than many. What’s a discussion about tools without Craftsman? This tap and die set is an excellent representation of Craftsman quality as the contents are beyond that of entry-level options. Covering a wide range of metric and SAE sizes, everything is packed neatly into a well-marked storage case that will make your life easier than others. And this set comes with a total of seven drive tools, which is far more than any other kit on our list.

We will point out that this set is rather expensive for a Craftsman tool. Even if everything is built very well, it could be somewhat out of range for consumers. Despite that, the stamping on the taps and dies may fade over time, and Craftsman does not back this tool with its signature warranty.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Craftsman
  • Part Number 52377
  • Thread Type Metric and SAE
PROS

High-quality construction

Covers a wide range of metric and SAE sizes

Thoughtful case design

CONS

High price point

Stamping on taps and dies fades easily

Not covered by Craftsman’s signature warranty

How We Selected Tap and Die Sets

Being primarily self-taught mechanics, it’s only natural that we’ve screwed many things up along the way. And tap and die sets are to thank for any bits of money we have saved while screwing our cars up. 

The fact of the matter is that tap and die sets are a critical part of any collection. Even if we’re a little hard on ourselves, it’s a toolset that belongs in everyone’s collection because there’s no telling when nuts and bolts are going to give up. Whether it’s on account of experience or research, we’re only recommending the kits we’d feel comfortable leaning on ourselves. Also, we’ve taken the time to make sure anything we mention is equipped to cover the more common types of hardware you’ll find under the hood. 

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

Tap and die sets aren’t that complicated, though they may seem like a specialty tool that’s reliant on years of experience. You will need to know a little bit about your application and the common hardware sizes to get started, but this buying guide will certainly help you hone in on the solution you need. 

What to Consider When Buying Tap and Die Sets 

Types of Tap and Die Sets 

So, let’s start by diving into your options. Your primary concern will be the size kit that you need, which is relatively straightforward, but we’ll provide some insight on what to consider and when.

Master Set 

If this is your first time buying a tap and die set, a master set is worth considering. These kits cover both metric and SAE sizes, which makes them far more capable of performing repairs than your other options. 

Why go for the master kit if you’re just trying to repair one common fastener’s thread? Coming from experience, we know that the first set is usually bought after an unforeseen accident, and there’s no telling what’ll go wrong next. If you work on multiple applications, the bigger kit just might get you out of a bind faster, as you won’t need to track down or wait for the appropriate kit to arrive. 

Basic Set

Basic sets are something of a step down from a master set and are just what their name implies, basic. These can be a great solution in a pinch but are usually reliant on some preliminary knowledge. 

Specialty Set 

Though there aren’t any on our list, specialty sets are definitely an option. Sometimes, parts use specialty thread types that are unique to the application and no basic or master kit will include the taps or dies that you need to fix them. Specialty kits are very small and may only include what you need to deal with one specific type of thread. They also happen to typically be rather expensive because they’re a specialty item.  

Tap and Die Set Key Features

Knowing your options when it comes to kits is half the battle, so you will want to keep an eye on these key features to ensure your money is well-spent.

Proper Thread Types 

Knowing what thread types you need and selecting the kit to match is everything. If you don’t get the right kit, you simply can’t clean or repair the threads on your vehicle. If you know your car or truck uses metric fasteners, you need a metric tap and die set. The same concept applies to SAE applications. It’s also important to make sure the kit covers both fine and coarse thread hardware as you will run into either on virtually any vehicle. 

Ample Range 

The range is another key detail, and it goes hand in hand with the types of fasteners a kit covers. The range refers to how many different thread sizes a kit covers. This is important because it directly correlates with how many situations a tap and die set will get you out of. 

Quality Construction

We’re not going to pretend we’re something that we’re not and turn our nose up at cheaper sets. In fact, we’ve owned and used plenty of cheap stuff to clean threads up and get ourselves out of sticky situations. Still, it’s important to be careful of the most affordable options. Poor construction quality can lead to even bigger headaches. If the thread sizes are slightly off or subpar materials are used, you can damage threads, hardware, or expensive parts. 

Tap and Die Set Tips and Tricks

Before you get to work, you’ll want to keep these few key tips in mind. They’re technique-related and are essential to preventing any issues while you work. 

Use a Lot of Oil 

Tap and die sets are used to cut and clean threads, as such, there will be a lot of friction that will wreak havoc on your expensive new tools. Always use plenty of cutting oil while you work, and be sure to clean and oil the set before returning it to storage. 

No Race 

You’ll see folks rushing through jobs and even using power tools to cut or chase threads. That’s the fast track to issues. Take your time and stick to hand tools, or you can strip threads right out. Also, remember to back taps and dies off every quarter turn or so and apply lubricant whenever it gets tight.

Consider Thread Repair Kits 

Sometimes, a set of threads is just too far gone. You might make slight improvements with a tap and die set, but it just doesn’t have enough metal to provide a tight grip and will strip out again. In this case, a thread repair kit is used to widen the hole so that you can install a sleeve that replaces the original threads. 

FAQs

Because we can’t jump on a call or answer your questions directly, we hope to get you squared away by answering some of the frequently asked questions surrounding tap and die sets!

Q. What is the difference between threading and tapping? 

Think of it this way — threading covers the male hardware, and tapping is for the female side of things. You add threads to a round surface that goes into a threaded passage, and you tap threads into the side something threads into. 

Q: What are the four types of taps?

Spiral fuse, straight flute, spiral point, and forming are the four types of taps used. Most kits come with a variant of a straight flute tap, which is primarily used for hand tapping. However, it too comes in different versions, with a taper being most common. 

Q: What is the tapping process? 

Tapping is adding threads to a hole. In other words, you’re cutting threads for hardware to hold onto. The process involves drilling the hole, then twisting a tap into it, and backing off every quarter turn once it starts cutting threads. You can also use thread taps to clean out old threads that are contaminated with rust or debris. 

Q: Why is reaming done? 

Reaming essentially corrects a hole size. A drill might leave imperfections or fail to cut a perfectly round hole. A reamer follows to correct those issues and is necessary to ensure you are threading an appropriate shape and size bore. 

Final Thoughts

While we think a master set is always a good investment, we think something like the Tekton 7561 Tap and Die Set Metric 45-Piece will serve most DIYers well. However, we think you’ll be just fine when saving money with the Orion Motor Tech SAE & Metric Tap and Die Set 80pcs that feature both metric and SAE sizes.

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